On December 31, 1968, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War came to an end.
It is estimated that over 181,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were killed in 1968, while 27,915 South Vietnamese, 14,584 Americans and 979 Australians, New Zealanders, South Koreans and Thais died.
A number of factors contributed to the high death rate, but probably the most important was the Tet offensive, launched in January by the Communists, who staged a series of attacks against at least 100 sites in South Vietnam. , including the United States Embassy in Saigon and the city of Hue.
Before the Tet offensive, the Americans were convinced that the end of the war was near. Afterwards, it became clear that the enemy they faced was formidable and unpredictable. Morale has fallen and anti-war sentiment has increased in the country, but it will be years before the United States finally sees the end of the war.
The American experience in Vietnam has been long and painful for the nation. To those who opposed the war, it seemed like a meat grinder for conscripts, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and therefore feel betrayed by many at home.
Equally poignant are the undisputed facts on both sides: in 20 years, over 58,000 Americans have been killed in Vietnam and over 150,000 injured, not to mention the emotional toll of the war on American culture. The war ended Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and left a lasting impression on that of Richard Nixon. It was the backbone of the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War a century before.
Featured Image: ARVN Rangers defend Saigon during Tet offensive (Photo by DOD)